Why Invest in Girls Education?

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Why spend on girls education? Photo courtesy: The Indian Express.


An empirical study shows that the girls brought up in societies like Europe and the Gulf countries are smarter that their Asian counterparts, particular the Asian sub-continent, because the parents in those countries don’t discriminate against spending on education and training of their girls.

By Mohammad Tarique Khan*

Acquisition of knowledge is obligatory to all men and women; acquiring knowledge is base for the developments being required during span of life but the problem is that in comparison to men or boys, benign attention on monitory grounds is not being paid to education of women or girls, but why? Where do we find lacunae in mobilizing a girl towards acquiring knowledge? Have you ever considered who is responsible for this blunder, and then in such a case, my answer will be – “No one but merely a parent of the baby girl.”

In Indian society, the parents don’t feel happy when they find a baby girl in comparison to a baby boy in their home. They feel happy at the moment when baby-boy is born. Most of our Indian parents contemplate that the boys will be helpful to them in earning money and in the same place, the girls will go to others’ house after their marriage, so why expense more on their education, and the same situation is also found in Pakistan and Bangladesh but the notions change when in this regard, you study the realities in other countries, particularly in the Gulf and Europe. This is why; the girls in the Gulf and European countries seem better or smarter than Asian girls living in Indian peninsula.

However, the reality can’t be ignored that in modern phenomenon, acquiring a quality education is a woman or girl’s right, a global development priority, and also a strategic priority for the World Bank. 

Gender equality is the equality that will never be ignorable in sensual groups; it is also central to the World Bank Group, twin goals of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity. As the largest financing development partner in education on global stage, the World Bank ensures that all its educational projects are equally having gender-sensitiveness to overcome the barriers of preventing girls and boys for investments in education.

In human society, girls’ education has always been in favour of humanity. It is truly said by a renowned philosopher that – “A girl’s education makes a nation while a boy’s education merely makes a man”. There should be a constant ideology to spread fragrances of girls’ education; it goes beyond getting girls into schools. It should be ensured by school administrations that the girls learning in schools feel safety for them. and while they stay there as scholars, they should avail all opportunities to complete all levels of education to face challenges of labor market; they must be able to gain socio-emotional life skills, necessary to navigate for a changing world; make decisions about their own lives; and contribute to their communities and the world

From the girls’ education both individuals and nations get benefits. Better educated women tend to be more informative about nutrition and healthcare, recently a study of the World Bank thinking of girls’ education estimates that of the “limited educational opportunities for girls, and the barriers to completing 12 years of education, cost countries between US $15 trillion to $30 trillion because of a lost lifetime productivity and earnings.”  Undoubtedly all these factors combined altogether can uplift conditions of households, communities, and countries, and it is hoped that such a heavy investment is enough to some extents bring destitute nations out of poverty.

In India, the girls belonging to other sections, particularly minority sections hailing from Christianity, Sikhs or Muslim communities also have to suffer more from time to time on horizons of education because of their individual or social problems. In society, discriminations emerge on account of gender-equality, and it happens by the dint of lack of awareness. You will be astonished to see the UNESCO-Estimates on the issue of girls’ education.

What the UNESCO-Estimates reveal:

According to an estimated survey report revealed by UNESCO, 129 million girls including 32  million of primary school age, and 97 million of secondary school age,  are out of school,

Globally, primary, and secondary school enrollment rates are near about 89% for females and 90% for males. But while enrollment rates are similar – in fact, two-thirds of all countries in the world have reached gender-parity in enrolments of primary schools  – completion rates for girls are lower in low-income countries where 63% of female primary school students complete primary school, compared to 67% of male students studying in primary schools.  In low-income countries, secondary school completion rates for girls also continue to lag, with only 36% of girls completing lower secondary school compared to 44% of boys. Upper secondary completion rates have similar disparities in low-income countries; the rate to be taken into account is: 26% for young men and women. The gaps are starker in countries affected by fragility, conflict, and violence (FCV).

In FCV countries, girls are 2.5 times  more likely to be out of school in comparison to  boys, and at the secondary level, are 90% more likely to be out of secondary school than those in non-FCV contexts.  

Both girls and boys are facing a learning crisis. Learning Poverty (LP) measures the share of children who are not able to read proficiently at age 10. While girls are on an average 4 percentage points less learning-poor than boys, the rates remain very high for both groups. The average of Learning Poverty is at low, while in middle -income countries the average is 55% for females and 59% for males. The gap is going to be narrower in low-income countries where Learning Poverty Averages are near about 93% for both boys and girls.

In many countries, enrollments on horizons of education slightly favor young women; however, better learning outcomes do not reveal   betterments on life-outcomes for women. At the same time, a large gender-gap at a large scale is available in labour force participation-rates on mass scale. It is especially stark in regions such as South Asia and the Middle East and North Africa where the lowest female labour force participation rate  is 24% and 20% per region, respectively. Such rate is counted as low rate in comparison to an observation in other regions like Latin America (53%) or East Asia (59%), which are still below the rates for men. 

However, the matters related to Gender-Differences within schools and classrooms may also reinforce interpretation as well as messages that affect girls’ ambitions, their own perceptions of their roles in society, and depict also labour market engagement-disparities, occupational segregations etc.  Gender Stereotypes seem effective on the issues of girls’ education. When gender stereotypes are communicated in classroom learning environments or through the behaviour of faculty, staff, and peers in a child’s school, it goes on to have sustained impact on academic performance and choice of field of study, especially the negative behaviours affecting those young women who follow disciplines pursuing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) etc.

Among various factors, Povertyis also a significant factor that determines whether a girl can have an access to touch final thresholds of education. On the issues of girls’ education, it has been noticed that girls are consistently asked to discontinue education because of multiple disadvantages such as a meager income of their families, locations in remote areas, etc.  In a nut shell, these are the causative reasons   behind the factors  of not continuing  the education required..

Violence is also one of the factors to stop girls from continuing higher education – often girls are forced to walk long distances to school and like this, they are placed at an increased risk of violence. When they stay in premises of schools and colleges, they have to experience problems also there. Recent recent-data  estimates show that approximately 60 million girls are sexually assaulted on their way to school every year. Some time, school boys also sexually assault their girlfriends studying in the schools.  This type of atrocity brings tension and it has serious consequences for their mental and physical health. An estimated 246 million children experience violence in and around school every year, ending school-related gender-based violence. It of course is very critical; our concerned administrations should look into the matter seriously. Adolescent pregnancies can be a result of sexual violence or sexual exploitation. Girls who become pregnant before marriage often face strong stigma, and even discrimination, from their communities. The burden of stigma affects the careers of such girls and because of which they are not able to continue their institutional education, finally they repent all the life with such a bad stigma.  

Child marriage is an obstacle for maintaining a consistency in the field of education. It of course is a critical challenge to go round.  Those girls who get married with someone in their child age or school age are compelled to detach themselves from schools. They are enforced not to complete fewer years of education like their peers who marry later. They are also more likely to have children at a young age and are exposed to higher levels of violence perpetrated by their partner.  As a result, this affects the education and health of their children, as well as their ability to earn livelihood. The authorities at global levels should try their level best to end the functional system of child marriage. In accordance with an estimated report, ending the child marriage could produce more than US $500 billion as annual benefits each year.

From the views given above, we reach the conclusion that on issues of Girls’ Education, our girls in modern societies have to pass through various critical situations but the same problems are not observed at the time when boys are facilitated to achieve education. For solutions to the problems, a positive thought is required to change the set-up for empowering girls’ education.

 Disadvantaged Sections and Minorities

In the socially disadvantaged sections, we find such disadvantaged groups that include Scheduled Castes (SCs), the Scheduled Tribes (STs), the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and the Minorities. In accordance with the Census promulgated in 1991, SCs recorded as38.23 million (16.5 percent); STs 67.76 million (8.1 percent); and Minorities 145.3 million (17.2 percent). As regards to the numbers of   OBCs, it is difficult to quantify the size of their population in the absence of the Census data. However, according to the estimates by   Mandal Commission in 1993, the OBCs constitute 52 per cent of the country’s total population. Some of them may belong to the categories of SCs and Minorities.

 Ninth Five Year Plan

Ninth Five Year Plan is informative through different eyes.  The Ninth Five Year Plan admonishes to empower the Socially Disadvantaged Groups as agents of socio-economic change and development Towards fulfilling the commitments, the Ninth Plan adopted a three-pronged strategy of –  Social Empowerment; ii) Economic Empowerment; and iii) Social Justice to ensure removal of disparities, Elimination of exploitation and suppression and to provide protection to these disadvantaged groups.

How is Social Empowerment Possible?

Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes considered to be the people of lower categories, be given special attention with regard to their welfare and well-beings. After independence, they have been provided facilities like job reservation and opportunities for higher education.

Owing to government initiatives, there has been a visible increase s in the literacy rates of SCs, STs, etc. but the gap between literacy rate of SCs/ STs and  the general population continues to persist.

Social Empowerment

*Relaxation  in  norms for opening of primary schools, within one kilometer of walking distance.

*Extending reservation in educational institutions and granting concessions like free education, free supply of books, uniforms/ scholarships etc.

*Vocationalising education both at the middle and high school levels towards improving the chances  to both wage and self-employment.

*Promoting higher and technical/professional education amongst these groups, through effective Implementation of Post Matric Scholarships (PMS) with an added thrust and wider coverage.

*Promoting higher education amongst children whose parents are engaged in unclean occupations and thus gradually wean them away from the practice of scavenging.

*Providing more opportunity to these groups to appear in the competitive examinations.

*Achieving complete eradication of untouchability and thus providing a rightful place and status to these socially disadvantaged groups

*Developing special health packages and extending vital health services through improved delivery system to combat endemic diseases prevalent in Tribal areas.

*Launching exclusive schemes for Primitive Tribal Groups for their survival, protection and all-round developments

There are several educational programmes for these groups:. The programmes are:

Construction of Hostels for SC/ST Boys and Girls, Ashram-schools for STs, Coaching and Allied Scheme, Book-Banks, upgradation of Merit of SC/ST students, Special Educational Development Programmes to SC/ST, Girls belonging to Low Literacy Areas.

Programmes to extend financial assistance to Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) for setting up of Educational Complexes to promote education among SCs/STs and especially amongst girls belonging to Primitive Tribal Groups (PTGs); National Scholarships to meritorious SC/ST students to pursue higher studies abroad etc. All these schemes, as stated earlier, supplement the major efforts being put into action exclusively to improve the educational status of SC and ST population and thus empower them socially.

As the State Governments are unable to meet the huge committed liability, educational development schemes especially like Post-Matric Scholarships and Pre-Matric Scholarships get adversely affected, leaving SC/ST students to face hardships due to non-payment of scholarships under these schemes. A recent evaluation carried out by the Ministry on the scheme has found that the performance of certain States in providing matching grant, maintenance of services and management of hostels is not encouraging and the pace of construction of hostels has been very slow and the basic amenities provided in them are substandard. A review of Ashram Schools scheme would show that some of the schools are very badly maintained and deprived of even basic facilities. Also, no

separate sections exist in the hostels for primary school children which is a pre-requisite.

Minorities

*Effective implementation of 15-Point Programme towards ensuring security of life, property and job assurance for the Minorities.

*Promoting educational development through modernization of Madarsas and strengthening and expansion of Maulana Azad Education Foundation’s activities, specially focusing on women.

*Promoting self-employment activities with upgradation of entrepreneurial skills through National Minorities Finance and Development Corporation (NMFDC) with a special focus on women.

*Towards economic advancement of the minorities, Authorized Share Capital of NMFDC has been raised from Rs.300 crore to Rs.500 crore.

*Multi-sectoral Developmental Projects to identify the traditional and other related economical activities for formulating viable schemes for generating self-employment, additional incremental income etc. being taken up in 41 Minority concentrated Districts.

*Extending special coaching and training to the educationally backward minorities and other weaker sections to prepare them for various competitive examinations.

Fortunately, the Indian economy has reached a stage where there is a greater demand for skilled manpower rather than for clerical positions in white collar professions. Although the area has its expansion, yet the expansion in government jobs will take place at a very slow pace as compared to its growth in the last 40 years. More jobs will be created in factories, small businesses and crafts where minorities and OBCs have an edge over other communities and, therefore, they could do well by concentrating on the newer opportunities, rather than trying to acquire university degrees which have little market value now. The Central Government should, therefore, shift the focus to vocational rather than academic college education for them.

From these points of views as mentioned above, we often reach the conclusion that the administration, working on betterment of the disadvantaged Sections including SCs, STs, OBCs and Minorities, is appreciable in its performances but even then a matter of consideration is that the yojna (Plan) – “Beti bachao, Beti padhao” – is yet to be followed on administrative level. The plans related to the issues of girls’ education can be in a position to achieve the targets when they have to be implemented in a proper way. The plans on the education of girls from minority communities need transparency.

*The author is an educationist and based in Delhi.

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